For many parents, swim lessons are an afterschool activity, another hobby akin to Girl Scout meetings and basketball practices. For No More Under program director Natasha Lloyd, they’re a matter of social justice.
Lloyd, a 2020 Impact MBA alum, looks beyond learn-to-swim programs’ position as a childhood extracurricular, and focuses on sobering statistics tied to youth drowning. Black children drown 5.5 times more often than white children in the same age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and children who qualify for free and reduced school lunch programs are 63% less likely to have swimming skills.
No More Under has made it its mission to eliminate gaps in basic aquatic safety. Lloyd, the organization’s first full-time employee, pursues an ambitious agenda to redefine basic swimming abilities as a lifesaving life skill which everyone has the right to learn, rather than an exclusive recreational pastime. They’re working against decades of cultural and economic barriers.
“Our goal is to make aquatics more equitable, accessible and inclusive,” she said. “Aquatics is traditionally exclusive due to many barriers. There’s been a long history of segregation in this country which included aquatics and so we’re working really hard to address the racial and financial exclusion that has been in swimming and aquatics for so, so long.”
As the organization advocates for water safety and elevating aquatic inclusion, Lloyd focuses on a more tangible goal: getting children from traditionally underserved and under-resourced communities into the water to develop basic swimming abilities. To do so, she creates partnerships with support organizations, such as affordable housing communities and foster care and connects them to aquatics programs in area pools.
Enrollment fees aren’t the only obstacle Lloyd overcomes as she gets children into learn-to-swim programs. . She connects under-resourced families with the swimsuits and goggles to attend classes and arranges transportation to and from the pool. Because only 13% of children raised by non-swimmers learn to swim, according to the U.S.A. Swimming Foundation, she collaborates with trusted parties in in communities with low engagement in aquatics programs to communicate the importance of learning to swim and encourage engagement in No More Under’s programs.
“You’ve got generations that are still excluded from learning how to swim, which is a critical life skill,” Lloyd said. “It’s not just a sport. Swimming can literally be the difference between life and death. And you can’t say that about ballet lessons or basketball. Swimming is truly necessary in some scenarios to save a life.”
Inspired by tragedy
While Lloyd is No More Under’s first full-time employee, the organization has been active since 2019. Founded by Chezik Tsunoda following the death of her 3-year-old son, Yori, who drowned in 2018. The ordeal inspired Tsunoda to launch No More Under in hope of reducing the number of preventable drowning deaths. Before collaborating with learn-to-swim programs, the organization provided free personal floatation devices, water watcher training for adults and awareness programs for Seattle-area families.
Tsunoda, who works as a film producer, also reached out to other families dealing with the grief of losing a child to a drowning incident. Traveling around the country, she spoke with families, medical professionals and researchers to examine the drowning’s massive annual death toll – about 900 youth every year – as well as new efforts to combat youth drowning. The project eventually became the documentary Drowning in Silence, which premiered on Apple TV+ on May 12 and is available for purchase on many platforms.
Although Lloyd takes a more hands-on approach in her programming, she’s still guided by the same spirit. Lesson programs typically devote time to cultivating an awareness of aquatic safety in children – asking permission to get in water, knowing how to identify lifeguards and understanding the dangers of water.
“It’s not just survival skills in the water, but creating that all-around awareness and understanding of water safety that makes a safe swimming experience,” Lloyd explained.
An entrepreneurial approach to a nonprofit
While the nonprofit had established itself as advocates in preventing drowning, Lloyd was tasked with kicking off the learn-to-swim portion of its operations when she accepted her position in late 2021. She was a nearly ideal candidate for the job: Not only as a one-time swim instructor and a NCAA Division I swimmer herself, but also as an Impact alum, she graduated from an MBA program specifically tooled to enable its graduates to address social, environmental and economic challenges.
Lloyd even had experience assembling a startup from scratch from her time in the Impact MBA, helping research and develop the startup RaKaivery, a farm-to-table concept aimed at reducing food waste. Armed with the entrepreneurial mindset developed in the Impact MBA, Lloyd approached the challenge like any MBA would: She analyzed the market, discovered gaps in the aquatic industry caused by social and cultural conditions, and addressed them head on.
Since starting No More Under’s learn-to-swim program, Lloyd has helped 360 children get into the pool and develop critical lifesaving skills. She chalks up some of that success to her time at the College of Business.
“The knowledge from the Impact MBA has really helped me in taking an entrepreneurial approach to these programs,” she said. “I completely credit the Impact MBA for giving me those skills to be able to identify what existed and then realize what was needed.”
About CSU’s College of Business
The College of Business at Colorado State University is focused on using business to create a better world.
As an AACSB-accredited business school, the College is among the top five percent of business colleges worldwide, providing programs and career support services to more than 2,500 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students. Faculty help students across our top-ranked on-campus and online programs develop the knowledge, skills and values to navigate a rapidly evolving business world and address global challenges with sustainable business solutions. Our students are known for their creativity, work ethic and resilience—resulting in an undergraduate job offer and placement rate of over 90% within 90 days of graduation.
The College’s highly ranked programs include its Online MBA, which has been ranked the No. 1 program in Colorado by U.S. News and World Report for six years running and achieved No. 16 for employability worldwide from QS Quacquarelli Symonds. The College’s Impact MBA is also ranked by Corporate Knights as a Top 20 “Better World MBA” worldwide.